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Wednesday morning, I had a Psychology exam. It went well, except for area of study one question one (which is ostensibly the easiest question in the entire short-answer section), which as usual I managed to completely overthink until I had written the wrong answer. Keep in mind there were only two possible answers. And I’d written the correct one originally but crossed it out. So you know, it was irritating to know I’d already lost two marks for such an easy question. But that’s not actually what this entry is about.

Because it was exam week, I had no more commitments for the rest of the day after my Psych exam. That left me free to attend a rally on the steps of Parliament House. I’m embarrassingly ignorant of state affairs a lot of the time, but I was aware of the protesters’ concerns and volunteered to go with my dad. So I went.

It wasn’t the kind of protest that would attract a lot of attention. A few days later 6,000 people protested against the refusal of politicians to care for the environment, and that protest made international news. Well, the catalyst for this protest was town planning. It’s not the kind of thing that many people are likely to find interesting. I mean, town planning? Do we care? Who’s going to plan towns if not the state? And if they really suck, can’t we just move? What does it matter?

These are valid questions, and admittedly, town planning isn’t really my passion either. But the protest transcended the issue of planning. The catch-cry for the rally was, “Protect residents’ rights.” I mean, some madwoman started howling that we should be fighting for citizens’ rights, and that non-citizens are unworthy of our attention, but the crowd soon let her know just how little support she had on that front.

The ABC would like us to believe that protesters objected to “the government’s decision to intervene in some delayed building projects”. Evidently no one from the ABC listened to a single person at the demonstration, because that wasn’t what the issue was at all. The issue was the government’s decision to “streamline” the building development protest by abolishing residents’ right to appeal. It did this because, with the financial crisis, they were worried that builders wouldn’t find enough work. Deprive residents of the right to object to projects, et voilà: work!

This has upset a great many people, who are now worried about the likelihood of projects being developed without anyone thinking too much about them. This happens even WITH the appeals process in place. Near where I live, a shopping centre has been built where roads are grossly inadequate to deal with the traffic. Traffic jams are frequent, and impatient drivers like to ignore pedestrians in their efforts to escape. The process for dealing with appeals is not very good — you go up to this unaccountable tribunal who are only obliged to follow state law, not municipal guidelines. But it’s better than ABOLISHING THE ENTIRE PROCESS.

The State Government has outlined its alternative process in legislation. Its alternative process goes something like, the regular process is in place until the Minister for Planning decides otherwise. The Minister then creates a DAC, a council of five with absolute authority to make decisions. A majority of members are appointed by the Minister, and decisions are made by authority rule. Effectively, the Minister can take over any development (e.g. those being appealed) and stack a DAC to make sure the development goes ahead. And the development could be anything, like building a twenty-storey apartment block in a suburban street. It probably wouldn’t be that, but there’s nothing to stop the State Government doing that. The legislation expressly states that DAC members must act “without regard for technicalities or legal forms”.

The legislation also states it’ll be automatically repealed after a year. But a lot can be decided in a year.

The protest was interesting. 500 people turned up according to the ABC, which doesn’t look like a large number but it’s a large number when you’re standing in the middle of them. Everyone was given balloons on which a word was written, either “RESTORE”, “RESIDENTS”, or “RIGHTS”. Obviously I got “RIGHTS”. At the very end of the demonstration everyone was asked to pop their balloons. Hundreds of balloons popping in rapid succession is definitely a loud noise.

Those running the protest also made good use of humour to get their point across. One of the speeches was a satirical one from “Dave the Developer”, outlining why he thought the Premier was a lovely fellow and how parks are wasted land anyway. Towards the end was a demonstration with a steamroller running over a cardboard suburb and a crane replacing it with a bunch of cardboard skyscrapers. There was also a solemn procession in which there was carried the “coffin of democracy”.

It was interesting, but not very exciting. Armed police were there and I have no idea why. What did they think that crowd of geriatrics was going to do? Don’t they realise just how many stairs there ARE at Parliament House? Half the crowd would break a hip on the way up! Nonetheless, no one was allowed on the stairs. Unless you were a primary school, or a film crew, or a politician, or a police officer, or a protester who simply answered the question, “Are you with this group?” with, “No.” Those police really didn’t think things through. Whose idea was it to give them a gun?

I think that’s all I have to say on that matter for now. I won’t be able to reply to comments for the next three days, because I’ll be away on school camp. Please don’t spam me while I’m gone.

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